Wednesday, July 30, 2008

My July -- posted by John

So, do you like the jazz? I love jazz, especially when the black people do it. I love the jazzy jazz of the saxophone and the clarinet and the trumpet. You should see Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie on YouTube. Their cheeks puff up like shiny eight balls. They can really blow!

I've always wanted to kiss a girl on a boat in the rain, not a thunderstorm though. I saw a movie called The Notebook a long time ago and there was a scene of kissing in the rain that stuck with me.

I met a friend named Ryan at All American Sports Camp and I got a crush on one of my teachers. She played one on one basketball with me twice. I won one and she almost won the other except we had to quit because we ran out of time.

Sarah's graduation was nice. I got to meet Jonathan, Josh, Uncle Bubba, Stuck with the butter colored hair, and Carlton. I met Patrick, the director, and when Mom met him I saw her almost pinch his cheek because she thinks he's cute. I was thinking, "No, Mom, don't pinch his cheek!" She didn't, but I saw her thumb and finger headed to his face. Patrick was neatly shaved.

We went to dinner at Al's Upstairs and I had filet mignon. For once, the children's menu had more than mac and cheese and chicken fingers! My sides were steamed broccoli and carrots with seasoned mashed potatoes. For dessert I had New York cheesecake.

At the end I got a bad stomachache. I know it was from all the excitement. I felt better before we left though. Our table had a white tablecloth with candles and plates with olive oil for the bread. We blew out the candles because Ma is on oxygen. We wouldn't want her to blow!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Little Miss Sally Allen's Graduation -- posted by Mom

Sarah Grace's commencement exercise took place Monday night and the announcements were mailed yesterday. So what am I going to do with myself now? Talk about a crash!

I don't know what happened from the last dressy event to this one, but the boys' dress clothes were mysteriously all wrong. You'd think everybody would just move up to their brother's stuff, but for some reason Brother Ahead was a regular and Brother Below is a slim or vice-versa. I foolishly thought having slacks in every normal size would be enough, but now I realize we have a veritable cornucopia of heights and widths. Same goes for shoes. Bill finally found slacks long enough for James while on a business trip to Asheville!

I'd like to have a variety of colors and combinations so it doesn't look like The Mormon Tabernacle Choir is in the house, but it was not to be for this XL non-Mormon family. It was a sea of navy blue sports coats. (By the way, we aren't too proud for hand-me-down donations.)

After dress socks were retrieved from toy boxes and belts were hunted and relieved from duty as homemade rifle straps, it was on to the fun part-- finishing touches for Little Miss Sally Allen.

We found a pretty party dress for Sarah but the shoes we got weren't perfect. We loved the dress-- her first real grown-up party dress-- but the shoes, although gorgeous satin sandals, were slightly heavy for the light chiffon dress. In the eleventh hour we buzzed by Stein Mart in Lexington and, lo and behold, she found the perfect shoes... in a box... not even on display. I kid you not. Afterward I kept hearing her thank the Lord under her breath throughout the day.

Pamela, a fellow culinary student, had announcements printed up for the graduation and they were so elegant that we had some made in a Crane's fold-over and inserted Sarah's graduation photograph inside. Spencer, who had been practicing his hand at calligraphy, addressed them for us to mail the day after.


On Monday morning Sarah and I went to the hairdresser and when we got home we learned Sarah's first ever goat had died. She'd been going down, but I had no idea she would die on Graduation Day, for Pete's sake. Sarah handled it well. Really, with so many pets/livestock, somebody is bound to die on special days. Sugarplum, a cockatiel who was so in love with Sarah that she would get frenetically tweety and flittery whenever Sarah was near, died on Sarah's birthday.... in her hands.

The boys dug the goat's grave right up until time for showers. This goat named Veronica, but nicknamed Big Whitey, was the size of a pony. When the procession took her out of her pen, her daughter moaned for her, but still, Sarah Grace did not cry. The moaning of Ida Claire almost pushed me over the proverbial brink and into abject lachrymosity, but Sarah's perfect shoes beckoned me back.

We then packed up the 15 passenger milk-and-honey-acres mobile and picked up Ma, who thought she'd accidently thrown out her new impeccably matched earrings, and after a night of ear-pinching clip-on misery, wished she had.

The McCutchen House, a lovely antebellum jewel, is home to the culinary school and the location of the commencement exercises. I was delighted to finally meet Sarah's classmates and chefs as I would wait up late-night to hear her tales of fun kitchen banter, Chef Soup-Nazi antics, etc.

David AKA Uncle Bubba looks like an "iron chef" but is really a lovable ol' cream puff. Michael is a sweetheart and did a great job looking out for Sarah Grace, Carlton is a special young man who holds a dear place in my heart, Pamela was a mastermind and worker bee who went from one thoughtful act to another, and Josh and Jonathan were affectionate darlings who delighted my daughter weekly. Kim managed to maintain her jolliness despite a tragic house fire that interrupted her classes. Stuck was very personable and witty. Angie looks like a teenager, but to my great surprise has grown children! Thomas was extremely upbeat and warm. I also enjoyed meeting the striking Brooke and the soft spoken Angela. Hilary made me proud by bragging on Sarah Grace and I was so glad to meet Roger as the family had prayed for him through his knee troubles. Sarah Grace loves these friends to bits and I so hope they'll keep in touch.

As a homeschooler, this was really Sarah Grace's first time out of the box, so to speak. In the beginning, she'd come home with news such as her first big hug from a fella other than a relative (Hi, Josh!), her first Valentine's gift, her first time asked on a date, her first flowers, her first flirt, her first wolf call, her first crush-on-a-man-old-enough-to-be-her-father.... wait a minute.... WAIT A MINUTE!.... at which point we informed her she had used up her quota of "firsts."

While we were waiting for the ceremony to start, in walked Jo our neighbor and great supporter of Sarah's culinary pursuits. I was stunned as I had just spoken to her only a couple of hours earlier while she was in Charleston on business and I had no idea she would make it. Sarah 'bout popped when she saw her!

After the ceremony, Sarah changed into her party dress for dinner at Al's Upstairs and.... Mama Mia! My little Sally has become such beautiful young woman!

Even though the culinary school had provided food galore, Bill wanted to take us all to a nice restaurant to celebrate more intimately. Thankfully, Jo's husband, Tim, was also able to make the dinner, as well as one of Sarah's chefs who has engaged her help in an entrepreneurial venture.

Before dinner Bill made this toast:

To Sarah Grace-

No girl was ever more appropriately named. You have blessed and graced this family from the moment you were born. And with each of your beautiful smiles you make our home a more wonderful place. And so it is with indescribable pride, joy, and love that your mother and I congratulate you tonight and pray that God would bless you above anything we could ever hope or imagine. Hear, hear!

I am so proud of her. I've watched her study nutrition and experiment with converting recipes into whole foods while researching the cooking methods of our ancestors from a variety of cultures. She's got it goin' on!

Also, I'll post her graduation pictures as soon as I get the CD from the photographer!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I Could Tell You the Recipe, but Then I'd Have to Kill You (not really)-- posted by Sarah Grace

I can't believe it. I actually finished culinary school!

I have had so much fun that I don't know whether to laugh or cry now that it's over! I was blessed enough to have a great class environment to work in, where pretty much everyone got along with each other and had a great time. I will miss them all terribly.

For our final in Advanced Pastry we had to make four identical desserts for Chef to critique flavor and presentation. I literally lost sleep thinking of what I was going to prepare. I wanted to make something using whole foods, since that's my thing, but because my last attempt at making a whole foods dessert didn't go quite as planned, my anxiety was heightened.

I decided to do it anyway. I converted my grandmother's cream cheese fruit pie recipe to whole foods, and since we had to make two sauces to accompany it, I decided on a lemon sauce and a raspberry coulis. I also chopped some raw macaroon almonds for a crunch factor. Taste-testing at the house went well, but then the trouble came when I thought of how on earth I was going to plate it!

For those of you who don't know me, let me give you some insight as to how artistic I am. A few months ago my grandmother sent us an email that determined artistic strength by the amount of time it takes to find a man's face in a picture of coffee beans. I have yet to find the face.

After a million test-runs and even more prayers, it was time to present it to Chef.... she absolutely loved it! I couldn't believe my ears as I heard her rave about the flavor of the buttery crust (made with freshly ground whole wheat pastry flour) and the great mouth feel it had. She said it was very European in that it was only slightly sweet, and the crust was pleasantly unique from the typical graham cracker or butter crust. She also encouraged me to continue making dishes with whole foods, as she has seen an increased interest in restaurant goers for whole food cuisine.

More exciting news is that one of my chefs has enlisted my help in marketing one of his recipes. I don't want to say too much, but I'm helping him convert his ingredients to "all natural" and we'll be exploring whole foods. We're planning to meet with the packaging company soon after graduation. I'll be sure to let you know where you can buy some of this mystery product!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

I Lease [released] My Turtle -- posted by Richard (as dictated to Mom)

On this day I lease my turtle. Before I lease the turtle, I put my teacher's shirt on and I put on my award. Now the turtle is gone. I had a dream and in our garden there were a lot of food in it. Today I went Mr. Dave's and got a haircut.

Friday, July 11, 2008

My Last Class on this Day -- posted by Richard (as dictated to Mom)

Today was my last day at class and at the end I got award and t-shirt and a candy. In my class, I only cried for five minutes today. Tomorrow we are going to lease [release] the turtle. My brother James finished he class. On Tuesday I got a new balloon because Georgi played with my other balloon and it were very tiny. It made me very angry. On this day we play football. I want to go back to my class but it over. That's all.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I Suwannee! -- posted by John

A wonderful thing happened to me. My friend, Mrs. Sarah from Diaryland, sent me postcards from England and a CD of her musician husband! Her husband is a great, great, great musician and he is somewhat famous in England. He signed the CD and she signed the cover. She said she hopes I enjoy the CD as much as she enjoys reading my journal! It made me feel touched that someone as nice as her would say something like that. I have really enjoyed the CD but I have a few more songs to go.

Mrs. Sarah is a great writer, too. I'm not allowed to read journals on Diaryland but she writes notes to me and sends me emails. Her emails and notes are so warm, and she's interested in me! We all read her notes and we read them to my grandmother, too.

Some people are too busy for other people but my Aunt Mary always says our personalities should be interesting and interested.

Last night we had squash and zucchini from our garden. I help Spencer water the garden every day. We've gotten tomatoes and cucumbers and peppers and eggplant. Sarah Grace made gazpacho and all sorts of dips with vegetables from the garden. I love it. It tastes so fresh. We also have blackberries and blueberries for pancakes and pies.

I watched Steel Magnolias again. I really love that movie because the characters are from the South but their accents are terrible except for Dolly Parton's. The scene after the funeral with Shelby's mother always makes me cry when I see my mom crying over it. She cries every single time.

There are a lot of Southern expressions in that movie that make it homey for me. Did you know it was written by a man from Louisiana whose sister died from diabetes? He must have already known Southern things like when Miz Clairee says, "That man! I suwannee, I don't know how M'Lynn puts up with that!" There are a lot of funny scenes in that movie that we quote all the time.

We quote a lot from Princess Bride too.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

My First Post -- posted by Richard (as dictated to Mom)

My name is Richard. Today I have a class. I love my teacher. In my class there a bully. He blow on me when I try to do something. I love doing push-ups. My brother James have a class, too. And my brother Spencer have a class, too. They class is football. On this day I bring food with me. On this day we went to Hardees. And, one day we saw a turtle. Before we got it, they were bad weather. We found it in a puddle. On July 2nd it were my brother Will birthday. My brother James have school for painting. I have six brothers and one sister. We have a pond. We love playing football. We always did that in the yard. Today when I went to school I cried because my mommy weren't there. My teacher say "suck it up" and "if you cry, you mommy won't be here." My family buy more chickens because somebody take our chickens. In my school there is a playground.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Fourth of July -- posted by John

Happy Secession Day, as we call it. We call it that because it is ironic that the United States declared independence from England, but when we Southerners wanted to declare independence from the United States, they wanted to war over it. That's why we call it the War of Northern Aggression. It took me a while to understand what irony is even after Dad explained it.

I couldn't write last night because we went to the Peach Festival to celebrate the freedom of the United States of America. We only went in the evening to get peach ice cream and watch the fireworks show. On the way it rained so hard we could barely see the car in front of us. George was starting to get so disappointed that he asked Mom to pray with him to ask the Lord to help. When we got to the festival, it was only drizzling and by the time we got a basket of peaches and ice cream, it had stopped. We played on the playground until it was dark and then the fireworks started.

We were very close to where they set the fireworks off and the booms were so loud that I felt like a cannon ball hit me right in the heart. We also got showered with debris and James was hit with a big piece of shrapnel. Mom said the show was nearly as good as the Boston Pops show!

When we got home 1776 was on TV. My parents and "the big four" saw it live at the Koger Center. I've never been to a live musical. Mom's dream is to take us all to New York to see a Broadway show. I hope it comes true.

Mom signed George and me up for All American Sports camp. James and Spencer are going to football camp. Richard is taking gymnastics. Will and Sarah Grace are taking ballroom dance classes. Will might take sailing lessons. Dad called Mom "Etheline" while she was telling us what she had signed us up for. Remember the scene when Etheline Tenenbaum is signing Richie, Margot, and Chas up for activities?

Yesterday we had barbecued ribs, green beans, and rice. Today we ate the watermelon.